Not all liars are easy to spot.
But if you know what to watch out for, it’s possible to catch out a liar despite their best attempts to hide.
Catching out a liar requires attention to detail, but you have to know what you’re looking for first, and the ways that liars expose themselves without realizing it.
Here are the top things to do if you’re trying to find out if somebody’s lying and catch them in the act.
1) Listen for inconsistency
The first way to catch a liar is to be a very active listener.
When you hear closely, you’ll notice inconsistencies that pop up as well as vagueness and other aspects that aren’t clear.
Why aren’t they clear?
It’s usually because of negligence or because there’s an actual lie being sneaked through.
For example, if a cell phone plan is being sold to you and the salesman keeps glossing over some of the extra charges or then mentioning that it’s “not much” and “that can be discussed,” pay attention.
What’s up with these inconsistencies?
2) Listen for weighted words
The next key part of the listening aspect of catching a liar is to listen for weighted words.
These are the words that the liar puts emphasis on.
Why is he or she doing that?
What is their goal?
3) Listen for what’s really being asked or demanded
What’s behind the person speaking to you? What desires, fears, motivations or confusion?
As an active listener, you can begin to become highly observant about what’s really being asked or demanded of you by someone.
If they’re lying you’ll be able to tell much more easily when you know what’s really wanted.
Why is this person actually speaking to you and what do they want?
When you know that it’s a lot easier to tell if they’re trying to mask their real objective or mislead you.
4) Watch for spontaneous microexpressions
Microexpressions are a crucial part of catching out a liar.
These are the spontaneous facial expressions that people make before deciding what image or mood they want to consciously project.
As microexpression pioneer Paul Ekman explains, this technique is extremely powerful.
“Microexpressions are facial expressions that occur within a fraction of a second. This involuntary emotional leakage exposes a person’s true emotions.”
5) Tell a lie of your own to trap them in a lie
This is the technique of lying to catch a liar and is highly effective.
Although you may feel some moral compunction at first, I’d encourage readers to think of this in a pragmatic sense.
Lies can do horrific damage:
They can ruin marriages, ruin lives and ruin businesses.
Unfortunately it is sometimes necessary to cross a bit of an ethical boundary and tell a lie of your own in order to discover if somebody else is lying.
If you’re clever and do this the right way you can gain a lot more certainty about whether somebody else is lying or not.
6) Pretend to already believe something untrue to see if they go along with it
This relates to the last point and is easier to do than it seems.
You basically pretend that you already believe something untrue or are ignorant of an important fact.
If the other person confirms you in this untruth or ignorance then they are just that: a liar.
This may seem like a sneaky way to go about things, but sometimes it’s necessary to get a bit tricky if you want to trap a liar and beat them at their own game.
7) Portray yourself as gullible to see if you’ll be targeted
This is another highly effective way to catch a liar, although it requires some bravery.
You make yourself look like a rube who just trusts everyone and believes everything will be fine.
You nod and smile to everything that is said to you and act like you were born yesterday.
Then you see what happens.
A liar can only resist so long. Sooner or later he or she will pounce and swoop in with their agenda and their actual goal.
This is when you get to see their true face.
8) Lull the liar to complacency
This is another very effective technique to catch out a liar, and it starts by doing the opposite.
Instead of being suspicious or trying to indicate that you don’t believe what a person is saying, you do the reverse.
You take it easy, smile a lot and do your best to be friendly and easy-going with this person. You don’t ask probing questions or even show too much curiosity.
If they’re a pushy salesman or a spouse you think is cheating or anything else, you don’t act like you think they’re lying.
You act like you’re pretty sure they’re legit and you’re just shooting the breeze. No big deal. All is well…
Well, it seems to be at first.
9) Then hit them with a hard question
Lulling someone into complacency before asking a hard question is a common tactic of police interrogators and law enforcement.
It works well because most liars are on edge when they first feel they’re being questioned or scrutinized. If you can show them that you’re not suspicious or uncomfortable in any way, they’re more likely to relax.
“OK, I got this, no problem,” the liar thinks.
Then you hit them with a direct question that is what you really wanted to know all along:
“Did you sleep with her?”
“What do you really want from me?”
The liar is blindsided and will now be much more likely to panic and start speaking in circles or even admitting some of what’s going on because they’ve been caught out suddenly without expecting it.
10) Let the person reveal themselves freely
This is related to the idea of lulling the liar into complacency but is even more free-flowing.
In this case, you allow the individual to talk at length in any way they want.
Watch for how they reveal themselves and their motives, beliefs and agenda.
What do they really think? What do they really believe? Allow this person to show their soul.
You don’t really have to do anything except be patient, because eventually they will repeat themselves and start to make clear who they really are and what they want.
The truth about truly talented liars
The truth about truly talented liars is that they mix falsehood with truth.
As the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche put it, “they muddy the water to make it seem deep.”
Watching for the signs above is crucial to catch a liar, but it’s also important to realize that the most skilled liars may be at least partly telling you the truth.
However, by focusing on the ways in which the liar is trying to misdirect, exaggerate, downplay and gaslight, you will become very adept at spotting people who are generally untrustworthy in what they say.